California had not been on my top-ten list of places to see and I feel bad about that now. Because California is as foreign and fascinating as anything outside the borders of this country. (Well maybe not anything, but it really is very cool and has a major “wow” factor for a northeastern gal like me.)
Cali became my destination because the PSI conference was in San Diego this year and, as a board member of Postpartum Support International, I am expected to go to the conferences. And why wouldn’t I go? They are awesome! So if (I thought to myself) I was going to go all the way across the country for a three day conference, why not extend the three days to two weeks and see some stuff.
Starting the trip solo was an adventure all in itself. I had to make all my own decisions about what to do, where to go, what to see. Doing this kind of “highlight” trip was a challenge to me because I wanted to miss nothing, but knew I had to. Once I released the anxiety of “what if I do the wrong thing?” (meaning what if this choice is not going to be as awesome as that choice would have been?) I just had fun.
My first stop was New York where I was to launch early on a Monday morning. The trip started off with my Uber driver picking me up at 5:00 a.m. then proceeding to Union Square to fetch my ride share, and driving him to JFK, even though my destination was LGA. Huh? Good thing I leave nothing to chance and had given myself an hour’s wiggle room. Still, I barely made it.
My first stop in CA was San Francisco. I was destined to love it, and I did. It’s a city, for one thing. Walkable and vibrant, like the city of my childhood, NYC. It is on the water – I almost cried when, driving my rental car from the airport, I went around a slow curve and saw an expanse of blue stretching out before me. It’s the perfect temperature. I wore a light sweater and sometimes a light scarf around my neck the entire time I was there. If the sweater came off, it always went back on. Constant breeze to cool and refresh.
I sensibly parked my car in a garage for the two nights I’d be there, walked a few blocks with my absurdly heavy suitcase, giant purse, and computer bag to the AirBnB I’d booked. It was completely barebones accommodations. But the room I stayed in had furniture! And my host left me towels and a key. Why would I need more?
First off, I learned quickly that when in a city for just one day, don’t bother to learn the public transportation system. A week, yes. A day—Uber. Despite my Uber-glitch in NYC I am basically in love with it.
So what I saw in San Francisco (in one day):
- The water. Coffee on a park bench beside the water, with the Golden Gate down to my left and the breeze keeping me delightfully cool.
- The Presidio. Entirely by accident. I walked for two hours or so in the vague direction of the bridge, came upon the beautifully maintained Presidio district as realization dawned: the Golden Gate Park is nowhere near Golden Gate Bridge. So I got my first Uber.
- Golden Gate Park. My driver became a tour consultant and we set the agenda for my day as he drove me to the part of the largest urban park in the US that he thought I would like: Stow Lake. I chatted with some elderly Japanese American men who remembered the days of the internment camps. That was humbling. And the park is exquisitely beautiful. So I spent an hour there.
- Sausalito. Next stop, the ferry terminal. The first Uber driver I called gave up. He said he could not find the boat house where I waited. So I tried again. This guy got to me and took me to the Embarcadero—a lively waterfront neighborhood—where I caught the ferry. Like the Staten Island Ferry from lower Manhattan, this ferry offered the perfect view of the SF skyline, as well as excellent views of both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate. Sausalito is a small city built on a hillside with a gorgeous waterfront “downtown” jammed with shops and restaurants, of course. By this point I was fairly obsessed with getting the views, and from my restaurant on the water I had nothing but.
- Starbucks. While in Sausalito, I did have to stop off in a Starbucks to charge my phone for a bit, as being Uber-dependent meant I was phone-dependent and since I was taking about 300 pictures a day and texting them to my kids (and my friend Jim, of course)… well, I was using up a lot of battery. So forgive me.
- Embarcadero. When I returned on the ferry I had my first encounter in CA with someone I knew. Pat Dunn, my son’s dear high school friend, lives and works out there. I had not seen him in ages and it was like seeing a long lost family member. We had a drink in the sunshine and caught up. I gave him a hug from his mom, and one from me, and we parted ways.
That night, my second in SF (I’d arrived at 7:00 the evening before), and after the epic day in which I did all of the above—I feared I was getting sick. I was flagging big time, felt clogged up and achy. I bought some empanadas at a stall in the Embarcadero, some NyQuil at a Walgreens, and headed to my AirBnB to eat in bed and put pix on Facebook. Slept a thousand hours and woke up in the morning feeling grand, ready to schlepp my not-lightly-packed belongings back to the garage and drive south.